Neverending story

A lot has happened in the past month. I’ve had another cancer patient go off on me about how I should be ashamed of myself for telling my story. I’ve had another person recognize me from my blog and encourage me to continue posting. I’ve gone to a breast cancer conference, and had a good friend lose her battle while I was there. I’ve had many pool sessions and am super close to rolling my kayak. I’ve found a therapist I really like and feel like I’m making steps in the right direction. I’ve gone out with the girls and gone on adventures. Including fatbiking, which included a spill on the snow. I tore a chest muscle and broke my ulna this past Sunday so I’m currently taking it easy.

I’ve been feeling very positive. Looking towards the future for the first time in a long time. Seems like the right time for the universe to take me down a peg, huh? As you may recall, I’ve had a lot of anxiety about not having any scans or tumor markers pulled since my treatment ended. I find it hard to believe that the treatment worked without verification. There are several reasons that the doctors don’t want to do this. The scan can expose me to unnecessary radiation is the biggest one. As far as the markers go, they can show false positives as well as false negatives so my doctor, like many others, won’t pull them. Saying that, almost all of my friends have the markers pulled. They’ve all been normal.

I went to a new oncologist for a second opinion on Monday. She runs the young women’s clinic at CU, specializing in pregnancy related cancers (which mine is). She also has the highest survival rates in the nation. Amazingly enough, she was a wonderful person. Made me feel a lot better, noticed that I have developed cording on my left side, and had many suggestions for me. She also pulled three different tumor markers. These markers look for certain proteins in the blood which are present when cancer is present. As you may have figured out by now, one of mine came back high. Like, a lot high. So the doctor was very reassuring that it could be a false positive, that there could be other reasons for it to be like this, but ultimately I need to get a PET scan ASAP. My scan was scheduled this morning for Wednesday afternoon. I should get the results by late Thursday.

So… what does this mean? It either means that something is out of wack and we will get the scan and everything will be clear – or it means that my cancer is either back or never left.

I did pretty well with this the first 24 hours or so, but last night the anxiety started creeping in. Both of the kids are sick and Evelyn kept me awake from 1am through the morning by throwing up all over me. It was a cycle of throwing up, cleaning up, changing the sheets, doing laundry, laying down and thinking while she got some sleep, and then throwing up again. I guess the night could have been worse, but it was pretty bad. It is going to be a long wait for next Thursday. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Happy thoughts.

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Dropping bombs

I’ve not been 100% honest and forthcoming in my blogging for the past several months. I’ve said a few times that there are things happening that I wasn’t ready to share and I’m going to remedy that in this post. This morning Eric and I finalized our divorce. It is crazy for me to say or even think the word divorce after we have been married for so long. We’ve been together since we were 18 so more than half our lives. We were married when I was 20 and two days after Eric had turned 21. I always felt that we would stay married for the rest of our lives without a doubt. Whatever we had to do, we would do it – being married forever was the “win”. Saying that, things were not always easy and we had our issues just like all couples do. And then cancer came. I really can’t explain how hard this was to someone who has not been through it, it is beyond what I could imagine. And as I have said so many times, it changes you. Priorities change. Life becomes something different because as a person your ingrained fundamental beliefs, the ones you hold on an unconscious level, are proven wrong. I think that’s one of the things that makes finishing treatment so hard, and it’s something that I’ve been working on with my therapist – you have to process that. Life truly is a gift. And we realized that it was a gift we could give each other. Eric and I were not happy. We had been fighting that for the “win” of staying married forever. And one day we realized, what if that isn’t the win? What if giving each other the space, time and opportunity to figure out what will really make us happy is the “win”? After all the crap we have been through, neither of us think we should spend our time not being the person we want to be. So we decided we needed to be the best divorced people ever. We worked through all the paperwork ourselves, we didn’t need lawyers or mediators. This morning the judge actually took time to commend us on our teamwork in our filing, he said it was clear that our children were our priority and that us remaining friends would help them in more ways than we knew. And we are friends. We both still love each other and genuinely want the other person to be happy. There is no choosing sides, there is no pressure on anyone to like one of us more than the other. We still live in the same house, we still do things with the kids together, and we still talk and watch TV like any friends would do. We have the luxury of taking time to think and plan. If people want to go out with us, there is no weirdness or animosity involved. We are adults, we are friends, and we have loved each other and been best friends for over 20 years. We have two amazing children who we will continue to parent together for the rest of their lives.

The second part of this whole equation is figuring out what will make us happy. It seems strange to really think about what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Everyone says you can do whatever you want, but when you’re almost 40 and have a life, kids, and responsibilities, that isn’t usually 100% true. I want to do something in the medical field and was looking into EMT since I could do that with relatively little schooling and I think I would dig it. However, EMTs make a shockingly small amount which isn’t great. I would really love to be a nurse but I didn’t think I could afford to go to school for that long. My parents have been very generous in offering to help make that an option. I can’t even explain how much that means to me. My parents are planning a move so I will be moving out of state to complete school. The kids and I will live with my folks while I am in school and then plan to move close to wherever Eric settles when I am done. This gives me time to focus on school and him time to travel and decide where he truly wants to be. He will remain in the kids lives and will see them often while I’m in school. Last week I registered for college and I am studying every day for the assessment test I have to take before I can get started. Quadratic equations and factoring polynomials are super fun, let me tell you. But it feels good to start. To do something to work towards a future rather than thinking about cancer all the time. Eric is working towards his future too which is a good thing.

This morning we took Fletch to school, got divorced and went and had breakfast. I assure you, we are okay. Contrary to popular experience, neither of us believe this has to be a bad thing. And we are both going to be happy. We are going to win.

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The part that no one talks about

I went to a new therapist today. I think the appointment went well and I’m doing my best to have hope that she can help me. I try so hard to be strong and “better” but the truth is inside I am broken. I’ve come to accept just how bad it is and that I cannot help myself out of this one. That is hard for me because I feel like the general population, and myself included, have a poor opinion of mental health issues. It shows weakness, it is unattractive and it’s all about failure. Prior to cancer, I had not experienced mental health issues. Of course I thought I had hard times, I thought I had struggled and knew myself well. But the past year and a half have shown me an entire new universe. This one has tested me in ways that I never knew. It is common for cancer patients to have some of their worst times after treatment is finished and I’m finding this to be the case for me.

There are really too many things to even describe, but a large part of it is my certainty that the cancer is coming back. There is not a fiber of my being that doesn’t believe it’s coming back and it is really hard to move onto anything with that in my head. I had such an amazing week on the First Descents trip to Jackson and I vividly remember coming home and trying to capture the goodness I felt. Feeling it start to slip away almost as soon as I returned home. It’s only been 4 months since that trip and I can’t even recall the feeling now. I remember that it felt like “me” and now I feel that I am gone again. I remember feeling so good and I am now keenly aware that it’s gone. I have what I refer to as “episodes” where I basically become a hermit for weeks at a time. I will stack up dozens of voice mails, not respond to emails, and not be in contact with people in any way other than required activities (taking the kids to school, etc.). During these times, I do not feel depressed in the way that I am familiar – I don’t feel sad or cry or anything, I just want to be alone. I feel numb. Aware of the world outside my window, but with absolutely no desire to be a part of it. Unfortunately I feel that these episodes are becoming more common. I’ve been making an effort to get out and hang out with friends whenever I can. I feel good when I do that so I try to force myself to take part. I’ve also been taking a pool kayak class once a week. This is really the only time when I don’t think about cancer. I love being in the water, and the pool classes are teaching me to be a lot more comfortable under the water which is important. I’m also learning to roll the kayak which is something I was terrified of so that is awesome. Last week we started doing an initial roll (called a C to C roll) and I had a lot of pain from my chest incisions. The instructor said that happens with anyone who has had chest surgery but I want to find a way to make it work. I don’t want to be held back by my physical restrictions.

I think the hardest thing for me to deal with right now is that I am so aware of the struggle but at the same time I am unable to stop it. Even when I’m having an episode, I can feel it coming, I can feel myself settling in, and I don’t want to be in it, but I can’t stop it. I feel like I’m in an ocean treading water and all I can do is keep my head high enough to breathe. I am exhausted. My arms are tired. I want to stop. I want to be better again.

I can only afford to go to the therapist every couple weeks for now, but I figure that will be better than nothing. We are still in a crazy amount of debt from my treatments. My therapist would like to see me a few times before making an official diagnosis but it sounds like I most likely have PTSD. She said there is a ton of trauma and gave me information on EMDR therapy which she thinks I will be a good candidate for. I’ve talked to a few people about it this evening and it sounds like it would be a good thing for me. PTSD is really common after cancer and I am not alone. So, for now I will continue to tread water.

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Highs and lows

I have been unplugged for a while. Trying to get back to some kind of “normal” existence. I am sure that at some point things will become normal, but that hasn’t happened for me yet. I seem to be in a cycle of ups and downs. From talking to some other survivors, I expect this to continue for the foreseeable future. I am kind of in a limbo where people expect me to go back to normal, or just be happy all the time, when I can really bring myself to be positive all of the time. Most of the time I can do it, but not all the time. Sometimes things just suck. Sometimes my anxiety about having a recurrence is paralyzing. Sometimes I realize that the anti-depressants need to be in my system. Obviously, this is one of those times. So, I’m taking my pills and waiting for it to pass. I am spending my time thinking about my friends who are have recurrences and surgeries and fighting so hard. I know 4 women who had hysterectomies in December. On what planet is that right? I know 3 people in treatment for recurrences. None of that is about me, but it definitely weighs on me. I’m trying to fill my mind with positive thoughts, all of the people I know who have never had a recurrence or who responded so well to chemo that it gives me hope. It’s tough up there in my brain.

I should catch you up on a few things that have been going on… first I started getting some odd symptoms so my doctor ordered a brain MRI a few weeks ago and I’m happy to say that it was clear. That is always good news. Second, I had my 6 month visit last week which was also good. My doctor doesn’t do any scans or look at the CA-125 which still really makes me very nervous. She does a CBC, exam and asks me about my symptoms. I’m seriously thinking about changing doctors simply because dealing with the anxiety I’m having over not having that blood work or scans is getting really hard. I’m sure it’s adding to my current low. I understand the reasons why she does thing this way, and my logical mind can see that but my emotions are harder to convince. She also pulled a vitamin D level and that was super low. So, in addition to the 2,000 unit dose I’m taking daily, I am now on a weekly 50,000 unit pill to boost that level. I get another blood test in 8 weeks to see if it’s working. Lastly I saw my plastic surgeon this week and I’m looking at two more surgeries at least this year. The first surgery will likely be around May and will take more skin from my right side as well as reducing the pocket that the implant is in. Apparently gravity is becoming my enemy over here. Saying that is pretty funny since the implants are so much smaller than my actual boobs were, but since the skin on the right side was not radiated, it is “relaxing” after the implant surgery which, while normal, does not match the radiated left side. The skin on my radiated side will stay high and tight – it feels like plastic to me. The softer skin on the right needs to be adjusted to match. After that surgery, most likely around August I will have the fat grafting. For now I also need to do breast massage twice daily to try and break up the scar tissue and prepare for surgery. This may sound risque but since I have no nerves, trust me it’s purely medical. It will also hopefully help the pain I have around the implants where the nerves start again. My doctor said it will never feel “normal” but over time it should have some ability to improve.

Lastly, I’ve been making some pretty big diet changes which I’ve blogged about in the past. My weight is coming down nicely and I’ve found the changes to be easier than I expected most days. I’ve cut out sugar, dairy, and most animal products which leaves me pretty much vegan. I started this in December with a cleanse and it’s worked out well. I managed to get the flu right at New Year’s so that messed me up a bit, but I’m back on track.

We went to Atlanta for two weeks over Thanksgiving and stayed with my in-laws. We had a really great time and it was wonderful to see all of our friends and family there. Unfortunately we had to cancel our Disney trip for the second year in a row. Maybe next year we’ll actually have these bills paid off and be able to go. Christmas was wonderful, we had a dear friend sponsor the kids Christmas which I have never experienced and saved us. And we rang in the New Year by seeing the Avs game and me taking NyQuil and going to bed early. Here’s to a better 2014!

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A day late and a dollar short

Yes, I know that Pinktober ended yesterday. I am well aware that it is November and the holidays will soon be upon us. But I am asking for one more day to think about cancer. Of course when the general population thinks about cancer, what comes to mind but nice, pink, friendly cancer? Images of football players in their hot pink accessories, pink soup cans, pink chip bags, pink energy drinks, and that everywhere-you-look pink ribbon. As much as I support breast cancer, I am so sick of the branding. People will spend more at the grocery store to “support” breast cancer awareness, but a lot of these companies are just flat out taking the profit, capping their donations or donating to organizations that don’t spend money on research. Take a second to look where your money is going.

Also, October is breast cancer AWARENESS month. Awareness, not research, not working towards finding cures. Just making you aware. This strikes me so much because as much as everyone is “aware” of breast cancer, I don’t feel like people know very much about it. If the campaign is to make people know it exists then high five. But I’m pretty sure I knew it existed without everything turning pink. Why don’t we take a little time to educate? I’ve certainly been educated and I hope that less people have to get their education the way I did. Pinktober spreads an image of breast cancer far and wide. That image is polished, attractive, cute even. I call it the fluffy pink cancer, the nice one, the “easy” one if you believe the hype. I’ve literally had a survivor come up to me and tell me they were “so glad” that she “only” got breast cancer. SERIOUSLY??????? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she had a good experience. I certainly don’t have that viewpoint. I realized quickly that I didn’t know shit about breast cancer until I got it. I think most people are in the same boat. We all know that it exists, but how many people even know the difference between chemo and radiation in the general population? I didn’t. Most people certainly don’t realize that there are at least 20 different flavors of breast cancer. Or that no two people have the same experience. Do your breast exams and look for lumps, but also look for irritation, swelling, anything out of the ordinary. Do your exams standing, laying down, leaning over or whatever other position you can think of because those tumors can hide.

Breast Cancer is curable! Everyone screens for early detection – it’s always okay if you find it early! That’s what we hear. And a lot of times that is true, but not all the time. Sometimes a tumor is found very early, but it has already spread. Sometimes it’s too late before you even began. And metastatic disease is shrouded in secrecy. Metastatic breast cancer patients are not paraded out in cute pink shirts for everyone to see. They are literally fighting for their lives and dealing with an overall survival rate of 22%. In private. And it’s ridiculous. They are the ones we should be talking about. Because it is scary. I’m willing to bet that every single one of us thinks about our disease going metastatic. I think about it every day.

And you get a free boob job! I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say that their sister in law, coworker, friend, etc. had breast cancer and ended up with better boobs than she started with. Really? REALLY? I love my plastic surgeon. I appreciate the strides the community is making in reconstruction. And I even appreciate that I look mostly normal when you see me dressed. But I have a hard time believing that even one single person out there who has had reconstruction has a better rack than they started with. To start with we have ZERO feeling in our chest (unless you count pain). The nerves are removed along with the tissue during a mastectomy. So that is clearly an improvement, right? Secondly, we have huge scars across our chests. Again, I know the ladies are lining up for this super attractive upgrade. Thirdly, they are NEVER comfortable. I was actually looking forward to not having to wear a bra, but what they neglect to tell you is that the implants make it feel like you’ve had under wire permanently installed into your flesh. It is nothing like having natural breasts and taking a bra off, there is never relief. And lastly the nipples. Oh Lord, the nipples. Do you get them? Do you not? If you get them, how do you have them constructed? When? Where? Size? Profile? Color? It’s ridiculous. I’m going with the barbie boobs because seriously, if I can’t feel them and I don’t have to wear a bra what is the point in limiting my wardrobe choices?

And then there is the pink. What about ALL the other cancers? Why is is all about boobs? They have become the friendly, fun, acceptable kind of cancer. Why? Because everyone likes boobs? So somehow the cancer that destroys them is fun too? We can’t talk about testicles, colons or ovaries at the dinner table? Everyone can wear pink and talk about boobies but did you know men should be doing monthly testicular exams to look for lumps? I can’t believe how many people don’t even know they should be checking themselves. Tatas are cute. Balls not so much. Is that really the only difference? What about cancers we can’t see? Brain, lung, blood cancers, sarcomas – now we start getting into those long words people don’t understand. People shut down. Really as soon as the word cancer is uttered, people don’t know how to respond. This is the crux of the issue. There are more than 13 million at this moment living with cancer. That’s living with it, not out of treatment. 72,000 young adults are diagnosed every year. We all know someone who has cancer. We need to stop being afraid every time the word is uttered. We need to learn how to support our friends and family. And we need to be accepting of all cancers, whatever color they are. I am a big advocate of combining cancers in support. I have found more in common with other types of cancer than most people with breast cancer because of my treatment. We all have different experiences but the feelings involved are shockingly similar. There is no reason to alienate each other any more than we already have been.

So, what do I want people to do? How can we make it better? Keep learning, keep living and think of someone you know who is sick. It doesn’t have to be cancer. Just think about them and what you could do for them. And then do it. Don’t make them ask. If you don’t know someone or can’t do something for them, volunteer. Go spend some time helping people. If that doesn’t work, make a donation. Do some research and find a cause that is important to you. Make sure they spend it on good things. You don’t have to donate $50 or $100. They’ll take a buck, I promise. And it will be well spent.

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Surgery update

Hey! Remember that time I had surgery and then didn’t get on my blog to tell you about it? Yeah, me too. Sorry about that. I’m here now and here’s all that you missed!

I went in for surgery about a week and a half ago, mom took me in early since I was the first surgery scheduled for the day. I got checked in and back to my room pretty quickly. I had great nurses although the IV was put in my least favorite spot. Apparently they call this the “intern” vein. I initially thought that was some medical term, but nope, it’s just the easiest vein to find and poke so all the interns use it.

I think I am unlike most of the population, but I like an IV in the back of my hand. For me it’s the least painful spot and it’s not always getting bent around as I move which is nice. But, no go on that one for this surgery. I had plenty of time to joke around and laugh with my nurses and anesthesiologist before we got started. I made sure everyone had gotten enough sleep the night before and had eaten their Wheaties that morning. They were a fun team. The only bummer I encountered was finding out that I would have to be intubated. For the mastectomies, we were able to use the CPAP machine which does not go down the throat but does go deep into the mouth. That was about a six hour operation and afterwards I had a lot of breathing difficulties for several days. When I told the anesthesiologist about the details, she felt that it was possible that they were at least in part due to using the CPAP for so long. That machine uses a regular, shallow breath the whole time and does not fully expand the lungs like we naturally will do from time to time by taking a deep breath. Apparently not taking those deep breaths can cause the bottom part of the lung to become paralyzed due to lack of use. It takes time for the lung to work normally again. That could be what happened to me. So, in light of my history, I would be getting fully intubated so that she could control the deep breathing and keep my lungs from having difficulties. I understood the reasons, but wasn’t looking forward to it.

My doctor came in a little after 8:00am and marked me for surgery. Lots more marking for this one than for the mastectomies. He explained again the process and told me that he would be checking the thickness of all of my skin and if I didn’t have any thin spots then I wouldn’t get the cadaver skin, but we were planning on needing it so that meant drains, etc. All in all it would be about a four hour surgery which is longer than the standard exchange just in case anyone is reading this getting ready for their own surgery.

Then I got my Versad. It is a lovely, lovely drug I must say. I wish I could remember ANYTHING once it was administered, but it’s clearly good stuff. Here is my wonderful team (my anesthesiologist is the one holding the Versad) as they were getting ready to give it to me. I have no idea what I was doing with my face in this pic, but it’s the best I’ve got. The silver hat is required wear for the patient in the OR, helps to retain body heat.
photo (1)

And here I am right after she gave me the Versad.

Like I said, it’s clearly good stuff. Here’s what I looked like four hours later.

When I woke up, the nurse said the first thing I asked is if it was over. Luckily it was. Then I immediately asked if I had drains. And the answer was no. Hooray!!!!! Next I asked her if I was squishy. She let me feel and I was. I was definitely the big winner that day. I can’t even explain how good it felt to be squishy after 11 months of tissue expanders. I’m still getting used to it, but it is wonderful. In the midst of all the joy, my throat hurt worse than I have ever had it hurt in my life. My chest didn’t feel good either. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open and mostly just laid like this.

The nurse gave me pills in pudding which was a new experience for me but it worked and I got them down. Pudding was about the only thing I could get down actually so I was glad they let me know that right away. I stayed in recovery at a very low function level with mom for quite a while. A nurse came in and asked if I was ready for visitors. No matter what’s going on, I always am. Four of my friends came in which was awesome. I think I did a decent job of waking up, and apparently I did a lot of talking (shocker) although I don’t remember much at all. It was a nice break from my napping. Here we are:

As soon as they left, I went back to sleep and eventually they told me they were moving me to a room. It was never even discussed to send me home. I went to the third floor which is observation instead of the cancer floor so that was a first. I did have my own room so that was good. They had some custom novelties in the rooms here like instead of a remote to turn the light on, I got this:

Yup, that’s a string tied to the light pull. It was classy. I stayed for two nights. After surgery, my throat hurt so bad that I was unable to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time. It was pretty insane. Finally after getting Vicodin, Dilaudid, and an anti inflammatory all together I thought I got a couple hours of sleep. Nope, turned out to be 40 minutes. It’s bad when the meds that knock you out can’t even keep you down. So I decided to walk a bit. I’m looking super good and made it three doors down before turning around.

But, the mental side was great. I had so many visitors it was amazing and my mom kept saying they really improved my spirits. She said seeing my friends made so much difference in me it was amazing. So for everyone who is afraid to go see people in the hospital, just flipping go. It sucks to be stuck in a room for days at a time. So many people brought me such sweet things, but really it’s just about the people. I was there for three days and I felt very loved. That makes such a difference. Also, if you do want to bring a gift, Chloraseptic spray is a really, really, REALLY awesome thing to bring someone who just had a tube down their throat (thank you again Hallie!). I’m not sure why no one in the hospital thought to get that for me, but it was never offered.

After a couple days, I got to take the compression bra off. When I had the mastectomies I never had anything over the wounds so the anticipation of seeing what had been done was new for me. I was very happy. I was actually amazed at how much improvement there had been in this one operation. He smoothed the underside of all the skin, which I can only imagine involved a good deal of scraping. But the results are so much better. I am not all lumpy bumpy anymore and have very smooth skin. I thought there would be some improvement, but I never imagined that would be gone. The incisions had to be made larger since he took extra skin but they will heal nicely and I’m not too concerned about that. The implants were smaller than I expected them to be, but I think in a good way. The expanders just stuck out so far and these are shaped more naturally. He brought three sizes of implants in to see what would fit the best and I still don’t know what size I ended up getting.

I had my follow up with the surgeon this past Friday and he seemed very happy with everything. I’m feeling good and even went back to a very modified boot camp on Thursday. I am on restriction for 4 weeks with no impact and no lifting over 10 pounds (preferably 5 pounds per hand). He said that I can tear the chest muscle easily and since I have no feeling in my chest it is extra important to be careful.

My next surgery will be to shape the area with fat grafting so I need to focus on losing all this chemo weight and get to a good size. I’m not wasting lipo on areas that I can lose myself. We have to wait at least three months for the incisions to completely heal because those are the areas that will be most affected. So, time to buckle down!

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Three month check

So first things first. I saw my oncologist today. She is very happy with my progress, exercise, etc. It turns out though that the blood work they do every three months is not looking for tumor markers. She said that research has shown that that test can have false negatives/positives and it is not worth putting the patient through that. Also, she does not want to do further scans. So, we are left with my CBC, symptoms and physical exam to watch for cancer. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this, but all of those things looked good so she has officially marked my chart as NED. In the cancer world, that is an acronym for No Evidence of Disease. That’s a big deal. While I would feel better having actual proof that the cancer is gone, it appears that I am going to have to deal with and process my doctors being sure that it’s gone and believe them. She’s not the only doctor who is telling me I am cancer free so that’s a good thing. I just have to learn to believe that. I wish I could say that I am a person who believes that the cancer is gone and won’t come back but that would be a lie. I feel like I am constantly waiting for it to come back and I was really looking forward to some kind of proof that it is gone. I guess that isn’t going to happen. So, while it wasn’t the awesome spectacle I was expecting, it is a great day.

I celebrated by taking my bike all the way up the mountain by Highway 93. I haven’t ridden that far since before I was diagnosed. It used to be a normal thing for me. Here I am at the top.
It was great to feel like I’m coming back, even if I have a long way to go. The floods have washed out parts of the trail and all the water has brought in thousands of mosquitoes, which we normally never experience. When I stopped to take that photo I got about 20 bites. You’ll also notice that the sun is already behind the mountains in that picture which I didn’t think about until I had to ride home in the very dark woods with no light. That was an experience.

This weekend has been extra special because I hung out with three of my friends from the FD trip a few weeks ago. We went up to Red Cliff for Man of the Cliff which benefits FD. We had so much fun and it made me feel a little like being in Jackson again. It was amazing to hear the stories of what we experienced from other perspectives, thinking about how the whole trip changed all of us. One of my favorite things was hearing from one of my friends who was kayaking close to me when I went under in the river. Since she saw the whole thing it was interesting to hear it from her perspective. She was totally surprised by how scared I was when I made it out of the boat and surfaced – she said her thought was “wow, Mallow just totally got her ass handed to her. That doesn’t happen to her!” I assured her I get my ass handed to me at least as often as everyone else does. We laughed all day. I am constantly impressed and so proud of my friends for everything they’ve been through. We are all coming back.

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